Year A – Christmas Day – Isaiah 52:7-10

Isaiah 52:7–10  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion. 9 Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Overview – The Book of Isaiah – is a fascinating book. Sometimes called a “fifth Gospel,” it is quoted in the New Testament more often than any other book. Isaiah is at once “the prophet of a glorious future (e.g. 1:26–27; 2:2–4; 4:4–6; 9:1–7; 11:1–16)” as well as “the prophet of disaster and total loss (e.g. 5:24–30; 6:11–12; 7:17–25)” (Motyer). One of the interesting things about it is that it somewhat mirrors the whole of Scripture in the following way: there are 66 chapters, just as there are 66 books in the Bible. Further, Isaiah 1-39 addresses the situation of Israel, just as there are 39 Old Testament books. Isaiah 40-66 primarily addresses Messianic prophecies (in the post-exillic setting), just as there are 27 books of the New Testament which are addressed to proclamation of Jesus. Isaiah 52 pictures a renewed Jerusalem without its previous uncleanness due to idolatry. He speaks of redeeming the people, as in the days of the Exodus from Egypt. “For thus says the LORD: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. For thus says the Lord GOD: Long ago, my people went down into Egypt to reside there as aliens; the Assyrian, too, has oppressed them without cause” (52:3-4).  This announcement of their restoration (from Babylon) evokes the familiar words of our passage: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'” This heralds the return of God – “for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion” (52:8). This announce signals the end of the  Babylonian exile and the full restoration of Israel.

Insight – The question on  the minds of those in the first century was whether the exile was indeed over. While the Jews were in the land and had rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple, many of the blessings predicted by the prophets did not seem to be a reality. There were the Herods, the oppression of Rome and impurities and sects within Jewish life, the Sadducees and Pharisees. The New Testament answers the longing for the exile to be over and for God to return to Zion in a surprising way. The Lord would be born in Zion. Yahweh, the God of Israel would come and take the the role of Israel as the Servant (from the chapter before, Is. 51) and redeem not only Israel, but the world. He did this through the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

What is the good news that Isaiah announced? That God would come to Israel in the form of Jesus Christ.

Discussion – How was Jerusalem renewed? What form did the purified Zion take?

Prayer – O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BPC Nativity I)

Year C – Second Sunday After Epiphany – Is 62:1–5

Is 62:1–5 NRSV – “1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. 3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Summary – This prophecy speaks to the time of Israel’s exile and here God promises that the nations will see the vindication of the Lord. Whereas before God sent judgment and Israel was scattered, the Lord promises that Israel will be vindicated or declared to be “in the right.” She will be given a new name. No more forsaken or desolate, Zion will be a “crown of beauty” and “royal diadem” in the hand of the Lord. The Lord delights in Zion and will rejoice over Zion.

Insight – Sometimes in the old movies about cowboys and Indians, a “white man” hero who helps the Indians is given a new name. After going through a terrible ordeal, the Indians recognize his heroism by awarding him an honorary place in their tribe. “Now we call you, Running White Bear.” In the times of the Bible, names related to anticipated or present character. So in this prophecy Jerusalem being given a new name means she will have a vindicated or righteous character. Ultimately this promise is fulfilled in that the Church has become the Bride of Christ. She will be changed and like a glorious crown to the Lord. She will show forth God’s glorious splendor and the LORD delights in her.

Catechism – What should God’s people believe about themselves? That the LORD delights in them.

Discussion – What new name would you like to receive? How would it show your character?

Prayer – Heavenly Father we thank you that you promised to vindicate your people and that happened through what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Now we rejoice that you delight in us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.